Simone Biles is already the greatest of all time, but she isn’t done yet

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Author’s Note: Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles leads the field by nearly three points after night one of competition at U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials in St. Louis, Missouri. (Video of all four of Biles’ night one routines are embedded above.)

Here’s a quick refresher on how Simone Biles – the greatest gymnast of all time – actually became the greatest gymnast of all time.


Simone Biles: The Greatest Gymnast of All Time (aka GOAT)

Earlier this year, Simone Biles showed up to both the 2021 U.S. Classic and 2021 U.S. Championships wearing leotards bedazzled with goats. And it wasn’t even the first time Biles competed in a GOAT-themed leo.

If any other gymnast made that fashion choice, it would be perceived as arrogant, overconfident, or just plain inaccurate. But for Biles? It’s a fact. There’s no arguing that she’s the GOAT.

Biles, 24, hasn’t lost an all-around competition since 2013, the same year she made her senior debut. At the 2013 American Cup, Biles placed second to Katelyn Ohashi. A few weeks later, she finished behind Kyla Ross at the 2013 Chemnitz Friendly.

She’s gone undefeated in the all-around competitions since, winning a record seven U.S. all-around titles and record five world championship all-around titles.

In 2014, Biles became the first American woman to win four titles at a single world championships, a feat she then repeated in 2015 and 2018. In 2019, she outdid even herself, winning five world titles.

Biles also owns the records for most medals in world championship history (25) and world titles (19). And quick reminder: this is even more impressive given that women only compete on four events, while men have six events on which to win medals.

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: U.S. Olympic team for Tokyo features record number of women

The four(!) skills named after Simone Biles

Biles has four skills named after her in the women’s code of points, and it’s likely a fifth will be added when she competes at the Tokyo Olympics.

  1. Biles’ first eponymous skill came on floor: a double layout with a half twist. It was added to the code of points in 2013.
  2. At the 2018 World Championships, Biles performed a new vault: a roundoff entry with a half twist onto the table, followed by a laid-out somersault with two additional twists. And in case you forgot, Biles accomplished this feat after a kidney stone(!) caused her to visit the emergency room the night before competition started.
  3. Biles debuted two skills at the 2019 World Championships: a triple-double on floor (three twists with two flips, done in a tucked position). Because it was the second floor skill named after her, it was dubbed “The Biles II.” It became the first skill in the women’s code of points to receive a “J” value (meaning it received a full point). Previously, skills only went from A (0.1 points) through I (0.9 points).
  4. Also at 2019 Worlds, Biles performed a double-twisting double-back dismount on balance beam. This skill was controversially given an “H” by the international federation that oversees gymnastics (FIG), a decision Biles called “bull—-.”

At the 2021 U.S. Classic, Biles debuted her new Yurchenko double pike, becoming the first woman to compete it. (Given how difficult it is, she is also likely the first woman to train it.)

What exactly is a Yurchenko double pike?

In any Yurchenko vault, the gymnast does a round-off onto the springboard, back handspring onto the vaulting table, and then flips into the air.

Most gymnasts add difficulty by incorporating twists to their single flip. In the past, Biles has done an Amanar vault: a Yurchenko with two-and-a-half twists.

But instead of twisting, Biles’ new vault includes a second flip, done in a pike position.

Because the vault is new, USA Gymnastics submitted it to FIG for a provisional value. FIG gave it a 6.6, but Biles believes it is worth 6.8. U.S. high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster agrees. “It’s undervalued at a 6.6,” he said after Biles debuted the skill in May.

When asked why perform the vault despite its lower-than-expected value, Biles replied: “Because I can.”

If Biles competes the vault at the Tokyo Olympics (she has said she plans to), it will become the fifth skill named after her.

Records Simone Biles could break at the Tokyo Olympics

Biles already owns five Olympic medals (four gold, one bronze) from the 2016 Rio Games. And she could return home from the Tokyo Olympics with an even bigger haul.

Biles is expected to enter Tokyo as the gold medal favorite in four individual events (all-around, floor, vault, and beam). Biles is also expected to lead the U.S. to a third straight Olympic gold medal in the team event.

Here’s a look at two of the biggest records Biles could break in Tokyo:

  •  American record for most career Olympic gold medals won by a woman (in any sport)
    • The current record – 8 gold medals – is held by swimmer Jenny Thompson
  • International record for most career Olympic gold medals won by a woman (in any sport)
    • The current record – 9 gold medals – is held by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won the eighth and ninth gold medals of her career in 1964 (the last time Tokyo hosted the Olympics)

Biles could also become the first American woman (in any sport) to win five gold medals at a single Games.

There are also some gymnastics-specific Olympic records Biles could break:

  • Biles has the potential to tie or break the record for most individual gold medals in gymnastics. The current record is seven (held by Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska) and Biles will enter Tokyo with three gold medals from individual events.
  • Biles could also become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles since Caslavska accomplished the feat more than 50 years ago (1968).

But of course, before Biles makes Olympic history, she has to actually qualify for the Olympics.

Ok, so how do gymnasts qualify for the U.S. Olympic team?

At the end of U.S. Olympic Trials on Sunday, six women will be named to the U.S. delegation for the Tokyo Olympics:

Olympic team event (4 U.S. gymnasts):

    1. First place in the all-around at U.S. Olympic Trials (very likely Simone Biles, given she hasn’t lost an all-around competition since 2013)
    2. Second place in the all-around at U.S. Olympic Trials
    3. Selected by committee
    4. Selected by committee

Individual Olympic spots (2 U.S. gymnasts):

In a change since Rio, two spots are also available for individuals. These athletes will still be part of the U.S. delegation, but they won’t be allowed to compete in the team event.

    1. Jade Carey (mathematically clinched via 2018-2020 apparatus World Cup series, more here)
    2. Selected by committee

For more on which gymnasts are likely to make the U.S. Olympic team, read this.

RELATED VIDEO: MyKayla Skinner, alternate in Rio, impresses at Olympic Trials

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.


How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.


Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

YEAR WINNER SCORE MARGIN RUNNERUP
2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.


More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.